Cancer genetics and genomics of human FOX family genes

Cancer Lett. 2013 Jan 28;328(2):198-206. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2012.09.017. Epub 2012 Sep 27.


Forkhead-box (FOX) family proteins, involved in cell growth and differentiation as well as embryogenesis and longevity, are DNA-binding proteins regulating transcription and DNA repair. The focus of this review is on the mechanisms of FOX-related human carcinogenesis. FOXA1 is overexpressed as a result of gene amplification in lung cancer, esophageal cancer, ER-positive breast cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer and is point-mutated in prostate cancer. FOXA1 overexpression in breast cancer and prostate cancer is associated with good or poor prognosis, respectively. Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) within the 5'-UTR of the FOXE1 (TTF2) gene is associated with thyroid cancer risk. FOXF1 overexpression in breast cancer is associated with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). FOXM1 is overexpressed owing to gene amplification in basal-type breast cancer and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), and it is transcriptionally upregulated owing to Hedgehog-GLI, hypoxia-HIF1α or YAP-TEAD signaling activation. FOXM1 overexpression leads to malignant phenotypes by directly upregulating CCNB1, AURKB, MYC and SKP2 and indirectly upregulating ZEB1 and ZEB2 via miR-200b downregulation. Tumor suppressor functions of FOXO transcription factors are lost in cancer cells as a result of chromosomal translocation, deletion, miRNA-mediated repression, AKT-mediated cytoplasmic sequestration or ubiquitination-mediated proteasomal degradation. FOXP1 is upregulated as a result of gene fusion or amplification in DLBCL and MALT lymphoma and also repression of miRNAs, such as miR-1, miR-34a and miR-504. FOXP1 overexpression is associated with poor prognosis in DLBCL, gastric MALT lymphoma and hepatocellular carcinoma but with good prognosis in breast cancer. In neuroblastoma, the entire coding region of the FOXR1 (FOXN5) gene is fused to the MLL or the PAFAH1B gene owing to interstitial deletions. FOXR1 fusion genes function as oncogenes that repress transcription of FOXO target genes. Whole-genome sequencing data from tens of thousands of human cancers will uncover the mutational landscape of FOX family genes themselves as well as FOX-binding sites, which will be ultimately applied for cancer diagnostics, prognostics, and therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors